“Eddie the Eagle” is loosely based on the inspirational true story of the real-life British ski jumper Michael “Eddie” Edwards, a bespectacled nerdy weirdo who fulfills his childhood dream and makes it to the 1988 Olympics. This sweet and endearing movie tells a classic underdog sports story in the most formulaic way possible, as if director Dexter Fletcher went down a checklist and marked all the required boxes when making this biopic. The film is overflowing with inspirational clichés about never giving up, always doing your best, and never ceasing to believe in yourself. It’s cinematic fluff, no doubt. But it’s fluff that’s endearing, captivating, and an all-around feel good crowd pleaser.
Taron Egerton proves that he is truly a chameleon when it comes to acting; he can play just about any character and make them completely plausible. He makes Eddie instantly loveable from the moment he appears onscreen. (This role is night-and-day different from Egerton’s previous work, my favorite being his role as Eggsy in my #1 movie of 2015 “Kingsman: The Secret Service”). Hugh Jackman plays the perfect American cowboy who becomes an ally, coach and friend (and he has a really funny scene that rivals Meg Ryan’s diner ‘performance’ in “When Harry Met Sally”).
Egerton and Jackman have a natural chemistry and rapport that I found 100% believable. Their charisma made the movie very enjoyable, and they were extremely convincing in their student and coach relationship. You could tell that these two were friends off-screen and had a great time making this movie.
Another standout was the enthusiastically rousing, triumphant original musical score by Gary Barlow as well as some carefully curated classic rock tracks. The music helped set the jubilant tone of the story and served to set the timeline of events (the early 80s scenes were scored with synthesizer-heavy pieces).
Everyone loves a good underdog story, and this is no exception. Eddie remains optimistic even in the worst of situations and refuses to give up on his dream. It was hard not to find myself cheering him on, even when he was dangerously risking life and limb to simply prove that he could be an Olympian. Even if you think you’ll be bored by a movie about the sport of ski jumping, I guarantee you’ll be won over in the end by the film’s undeniable charm.
In the grand tradition of sports underdog movies comes “Eddie the Eagle,” the true story of an unlikely hero who was able to represent his country in the Olympics through sheer determination and force of will.
“Eddie” stands on the strength of the charisma of its two leads, Taron Egerton (a standout from last year’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service“) and Hugh Jackman. It’s not necessarily that these are great performances; it’s that these actors bring to their characters such affection that it’s impossible not to root for them. I get the sense that “Eddie the Eagle” was a passion project for all involved, starting with Producer (and Screen Zealots Supreme Deity) Matthew Vaughn right down the line to the actors, cinematographer, composer and crew.
It’s easy to empathize with Eddie. He’s socially awkward, he’s inexperienced with women, and his best friend is his mom. He’s obsessed with going to the Olympics, a goal that seems out of reach. He experiences setback after setback, disappointment after disappointment, but he never gives up. Through focus and dogged determination, he wins over his detractors and accomplishes what everyone has always told him is impossible. He’s basically a walking, talking version of those inspirational posters hanging in your office breakroom. And he’s the real deal.
It would have been easy to make a hokey, emotionally false version of this movie, but that’s not what we have here. The character struggles seem real, as does the relationship between Eddie and his coach Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman). Jackman is clearly enjoying himself in the Mr. Miyagi role and he’s a pleasure to watch. Even the cynical among us may find it a challenge to detach from this story.
Is it a perfect movie? No. Are there plot points where we know the filmmakers must be taking massive liberties with the truth? Sure. But those are minor quibbles when compared to how effective the movie is at telling a genuinely inspiring story about a couple of guys that the world wrote off beating the odds and proving everyone else wrong.